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Iron Arrow Fall 2010 Luncheon Speaker Address

Jaret L. Davis

Jaret L. Davis

What is Iron Arrow?
Jaret L. Davis
Delivered at the 2010 Fall Tapping Luncheon on November 4, 2010

Copyright © 2010 Jaret L. Davis All rights reserved.

Thank you, Chief!

Congratulations to the 2010 Fall tappee class and, more importantly, thank you for all you have contributed to this institution we hold dear.

My job today is to address you and impart insight on a relevant topic of some sort. The dilemma faced by each tapping luncheon speaker, however, is always the same -- how to keep the attention of approximately thirty of the best and brightest at UM who today at least are simultaneously the most bewildered and disoriented given what you’ve just been through.
Let’s recap how you came to us.

Chances are for a full 50% or more of you, we ensured you’d be available to be tapped by one of the Tribe’s oldest and most sacred traditions – fraud. The now sacred fake meeting -- we had someone close to you arrange a meeting to discuss some important issue. And, of course, being Iron Arrow types, chances are you diligently stayed up all night preparing for this fake meeting only to learn it was all a ruse. So in addition to being disoriented and exhausted you’re probably also a little bitter.

You were sitting there delivering the presentation of a lifetime for a group who strangely enough didn’t seem to be paying attention when you heard our signature drum beat. 

You then saw a group of folks wearing our colorful attire – this is the point where we are all praying to every higher power there is that you know who and what Iron Arrow is because, if you don’t, there is a very good chance we are all going to jail.

A woman approached you – you may have known her - a classmate, a student, a friend.  If so, this gave you some comfort until the drumbeat increased in both volume and tempo and all of a sudden that friendly face throws up a large arrow made of wrought iron that looks like something off an old Spanish Galleon.  And you remember what happened next - she then smacked you in the chest with it!. Then two others who you even more likely recognized picked you up and dragged you off.

Now having been the victim of fraud, assault, battery and kidnapping, you do what any rational human being in your situation would do - you join them! And proceed to march with this group inflicting the same fate upon other hapless souls - isn’t this fun!
Having rounded up enough of the bewildered, you all proceeded to a gathering place - by the way, on both campuses, we call it “the mound”.  You were then presented to this pleasant bloke who bears a strange countenance that can most easily be analogized to that of Mufasa from Disney’s the Lion King -- not really angry, not really stern -- more solemn than anything.  You even detect a hint of pride there - pride in his Tribe; pride in his University; and most of all pride in what brought you to him this day.

You’re now face to face with our leader and not sure what happens next.  The awkwardness of the moment is broken only when you hear the drums of the medicine woman and the mound beat in unison.  At this point, in true Olympian form, the Chief grabs the arrow -  you being a veteran at this dance, brace to be hit again - only to watch the Chief instead thrust the arrow into the ground directly at your feet! Now you give up. You have no idea why he did this, whether your foot’s impaled, whether your body is failing to register it’s been impaled because it’s in shock, why on Earth he’s painting your face or mumbling something about attending a lunch (because that’s what typically happens whenever anyone subjects you to trauma - they then invite you to tea). And after being beat up, dragged off, nearly impaled, painted, lined up, led around, and then applauded by a group of strangers, these people have the amazing gall to instruct you to listen to every word I say and take detailed notes - I don’t think so!

The reality is, no matter how hard I try, chances are you are not going to hear a word I say unless it relates directly to your most pressing needs at the moment – namely, how do you survive whatever else these people plan to do to you! Well, the good news about the Tribe is knowledge is power – the more you learn about the Tribe, UM and our adopted Nation – the Seminole (and their brethren the Miccosukee) -- the easier your initiation into our order will be.

So my goal today is to impart, with qualification and humility, a little of that knowledge as a supplement to the other resources the Tribe will make available to you.

I say with qualification and humility because, as with all institutions with the complexity and rich history of the Tribe, the organization ultimately means different things to different members. Which, by the way, is why your main learning experience should be speaking with as many members as possible because -- and here’s the tricky part – all of their views are correct – it’s akin to looking at the same object through multiple lenses.

So … who are we?  What are we? The eternal question most affiliated with UM have asked at some point.  To say we are a creation of the University of Miami is actually inaccurate – about as inaccurate as saying one sibling is capable of giving birth to another. Because, as you will learn, the Tribe and the University share the same founding year – as well as the same Fathers – including Bowman Foster Ashe, the University’s first President. Interestingly enough, while the Tribe may technically be a few months younger than the University, its purpose qualifies it more as the elder sibling.  You see, the purpose of the Tribe has always been fairly singular – a collective who would always be charged with the protection and growth of the University of Miami and be a repository of its traditions, history and all else most sacred to it. UM’s founding may have been the birth of its body, but Iron Arrow’s creation was the infusion into that body of a soul.

Now at this stage you might be confused – hey Davis, what happened to the “honor society” thing? You know, the whole “highest honor attained at the University of Miami” bit?

Well that’s accurate as well but mostly in the context of accomplishing the protectorate role I mention.

Think about it – it’s 1926 - you’re among the Founding Nine and Bowman Foster Ashe trying to figure out what type of person would be best to act as guardians for a baby university.  What traits would you look for?

For starters, I suppose if you’re seeking to charge a group with the protection of the University of Miami, it might be helpful for them to actually like the University of Miami – ideally love it. Does that mean every member must paint themselves orange and green? Of course not. As with one’s children, spouse, siblings, significant other or friend, the number of ways in which one may express love for a person or thing is as varied as the number of people on the planet. What matters is that love is there and is expressed in some way – whether it be cheering for our football team or displaying the “U” at a conference of scholarly pursuit. It’s understanding how special this institution is and conveying to the world your belief in it.

The problem with love though is it’s like good intentions - it may be the most critical component - but it can only go so far. If one is to be a guardian of this institution, raw passion needs to be coupled with effectiveness.  So that begs the question -- how the heck do we gauge that? A “multiple choice exam”? How about an essay contest? Really the only way to do it is to look at past successes you’ve have had as a proxy for how well you channel your love into action and lead others to help in fulfilling that labor of love. Thus, we look to see how the medical student channeled their passion to impact the most in need among the ailing. How those concerned with the plight of the underprivileged have fought to bring them aid and comfort. How the law student channels their passion to give voice and strength and to the silent and the meek. And how we all, as members of an institution of higher learning, have channeled our passion for truth - Magna est veritas (Great is the Truth) – to help mankind move just a little closer to that eternally and universally sought prize - the ultimate goal of any form of scholarship.

But a passionate and effective leader is as frightening a creature as he/she is admirable. Because, while these traits have been possessed by greats ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln to Charlemagne and Saladin, they were equally possessed by the worst leaders among us throughout history whose names I won’t mention lest they darken what should be a very happy occasion. In many ways, it becomes the ultimate hypocrisy. We look for those with nearly unlimited energy and ability, but then we realize we need some way of tethering them down to protect them and us from those very same traits.  Well the only tether that works well is a self- imposed one. So it must be something internal to the leader that forces him or her to be open-minded while still decisive, deferential while still confident, solicitous of the opinions and views of others while still centered within his/her own internal compass.

This tether is the leader’s internal moral code and sense of humility. A realization that, while the leader may possess each of the impressive traits I just outlined, he/she will never know it all – let me say that again – you will never know it all.  Or be able to do it all. But you’ve already figured that out because as leaders you’ve already developed some mastery of how to motivate and lead and collaborate with others to help you fulfill your visions.  And you’ve already figured out that most important of lessons -- we’re all in this together.

So there you have it--

Love of Alma Mater
Leadership and Scholarship
Character and Humility

The essence of any who wishes to serve as a guardian of our University.

At this point, you’re probably thinking “man, you guys are demanding!!”

You’re right. We are.  And, in that sense, you’ve just learned Iron Arrow’s greatest secret. We’re not honoring you with that jacket. We’re honoring that jacket with you.

Nothing we do could ever honor you more than you’ve already honored yourselves through your service to and love for this institution.

After we end our lunch together, you will receive from the Medicine Woman some instructions for how to prepare for your initiation.  Part of these instructions will include a request - albeit not a mandate - that you wear that jacket everywhere you go until initiation.  The benefits of this are twofold. On the one hand, notwithstanding my prior statement that we’re honoring the Tribe with your selection, we’re not naïve - we recognize that this is a moment of great pride for you and all who supported you in arriving at this point.  So it’s an occasion to let the world see you are one of us now, pending successful completion of your initiation of course.

However, on the other hand, it is our opportunity to brag.  We get to show the world the type of person who wears our jacket.  The type of individual who is permitted to be an Iron Arrow.  The type of person who exemplifies Bowman Foster Ashe’s dream.
Remember -- our founding may coincide with that of the University’s but ultimately there’s no divine right to call ourselves the “Highest Honor Attained at the University of Miami”.  In the end, all we have is the nature of our membership and how they lived out their experience here.

Now at this point, you’re pretty annoyed with me.  Davis has now told us it’s more of a guardianship than an honor, the honor is ours to give to the Tribe and not vice versa, and membership is almost more of a duty than a benefit.  This isn’t at all what I signed up for! 
So to be fair, I’ll acknowledge you are being honored but not by that jacket regardless of how beautiful and well made it is.  The honor being bestowed upon you comes from an entirely different source.  If you want to know that source, I’ll tell you:

It comes from:
A student leader active within the greek system who worked tirelessly to institute innovations to enhance unity within diversity and enhance cohesion among all of its membership.

It comes from:
A faculty member - physician at the medical school who was on the first relief flight to Haiti in the aftermath of the horrible earthquake that ravaged that country. A man who led and still is leading a cross-disciplinary effort to bring relief to those suffering and, through it all, retains the humility to insist those around him refer to him simply as “Icki”.

It comes from:
An alumnae who channeled her passion and commitment in the battle against sexual assault of children to give her the energy to actually walk from Miami to Tallahassee (that is not an exaggeration) and successfully lobby and usher through the Florida legislature three bills addressing this blight on our society.

These are your fellow tappees. And there are many other beyond impressive personalities among you. You should get to know each member of your class as you would a brother or sister as you prepare for your initiation.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The honor also comes from:
The officers of the Tribe, whose love for this University and this organization is rivaled in magnitude only by the sheer exhaustion they experience from their endless service to us all.

It also comes from:
Members like Johann Ali - a former Chief of the Tribe and one I consider a brother.  Whose intellect and skill coupled with his endless capacity for warmth, good humor and love - even in a world that at times refuses to acknowledge his right to love - continually leaves me in awe.

It also comes from:
Norman Parsons - our recently resigned faculty advisor - who is the living embodiment of our mandate that, among the signs of leadership, one be a thing created.  Norm, who had a vision regarding instilling in this campus an appreciation for the critical importance of wellness in our lives and succeeded beyond even his own wildest dreams in fulfilling that vision. By erecting both a center devoted to that cause and, more importantly, an awareness that was previously lacking in many.

It also comes from:
Dr. William Butler, our now (tragically) retired Vice President for Student Affairs.  A man who - I won’t say ushered - because that verb goes against everything he believes in - but instead I’ll say walked side by side as a friend with - the students of this institution though some of its most tumultuous times.  A man who, together with Norm, illustrated that the most powerful administrators of this University have always been those whose compassion, character and strength of self commanded more allegiance and willingness to collaborate from students than any title of authority ever could.

And, of course, it also comes from Iron Arrow’s own godmother, muse and patron saint -- Gayle Sheeder.  Gayle, a woman who served with unending dedication this University and the Tribe through three University Presidents and countless Chiefs.  Gayle, a woman who for me and every other officer of this organization has been a voice of wisdom and sanity, a source of help where none was thought to be, a shoulder to lean on, a kind word and smile and the ultimate of confidantes.  Gayle, a woman whose recent retirement will rival Hurricane Andrew and our expulsion from campus as a challenge which will be difficult for the Tribe to overcome.

These people honor you.  You honor you - as much as you honor us.  The jacket itself is really a mere convenience.  A handy physical manifestation of what already was. Cherish the jacket but more importantly cherish what it symbolizes.

That’s always been my view of an organization for which I’ve had immense respect for one and a half decades.  You’ll find you’re joining an incredible group of people whose ability to inspire and captivate is endless.  Learn who the people in this room are - you’re now one of them - and you’ll find our paths and lives form a web from which fascinating perspectives and opportunities are possible.
So to wrap up an entirely too long speech, as a member of this Tribe, I congratulate and welcome you.  More importantly, for adding to this organization’s honor, I thank you.  I also thank you as a member of this University’s community for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for this little cardboard college we all love.

And as one who will soon have the privilege of being a facilitator in your initiation, I leave you with some of my favorite words from that process.  They’re words which you’ll hear often and to me sum up the essence of what Iron Arrow members are to each other and why you are so important to us.

“Hold on to the person in front of you - for they are your lifeline”

Thank you everyone and congratulations!!!



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